Woodchucks vs Compeigne Marlins

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May 7th 2007
Published: May 7th 2007
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Yesterday was a matchup between the Woodchucks of Bois-Guillaume and the Marlins of Compeigne. It was the first of three double-headers we will have this week.

The Compeigne Marlins are the top team in the Nationale 1 Division in France. They were 12-0 going into this weekend. They were, from top to bottom, by far the best team we have played so far. A big reason for this is that the team has many foreigners: a shortstop from Venezuela, third baseman from Cuba, a pitcher from Cuba. And a few other players of Cuban descent (who spoke Spanish the whole game) but who have lived in France for a while. In French baseball, once a foreigner has played in France for five years in a row he gains ‘French’ status, and no longer is limited by the foreigner rules.

But beyond just having foreign players, this team was just a solid team. Their hitters knew how to hit the ball to the opposite field; I am a pitcher who throws a lot of fastballs low and away, and they adjusted to hit those pitches. If I threw a hanging curveball, they hit it. If we stole second and did not get a good jump, their catcher would throw us out (sometimes even with a good jump).

This was also Josh Stone’s first games with the Woodchucks. Josh is from New Mexico, pitched for a small NAIA school in Kansas. I think he is a few years younger than me, and still has eligibility and aspirations to play in college in the US. His story of how he got to Bois-Guillaume is an interesting one; it actually begins with his brother, who played college ball somewhere in the Northeast, and at the end of his college career met a guy living in Connecticut who was in charge of placing US players with teams in Europe. Players would give this scout/agent $150 and he would in turn find them a team, set up the contract, and off they would go. Josh’s brother was connected with a team in Sweden, where he spent one season playing baseball.

Following in his brother’s footsteps, Josh wrote up a short ad/resume for himself and posted it on several baseball federation websites in several countries in Europe. Initially, he said, he received offers/replies from nine different teams: teams from Belgium, Germany, France, and several other countries. He chose to go with a team from Belgium, because at first they seemed to give him the best offer. This was one year ago. But as his emailing with the Belgian team continued, things started getting ‘fishy’ (as he puts it). The coach kept emailing him a new/different date for when they needed him to arrive, each date shortening the time before he would need to leave. At the same time, in his emails the coach began lowering the proposed monthly ‘salary’ the team was going to pay him. Finally he got an email from the coach saying they wanted him in Belgium in three days, with a proposed salary 1/5 of what was initially proposed. Josh then emailed them saying sorry, it isn’t going to work out.

His conversations with Jean-Luc, our manager, began in September when Jean-Luc was still manager of a different club, Cherburg. When Jean-Luc split off from that club and came to Bois-Guillaume, Josh naturally followed.

So Josh is here(it is in fact his first time travelling outside of the US), just in time to help us with our six-game week. He started at shortstop in our two games against Compeigne.

I pitched the first game against Compeigne, going seven innings and striking out 8. The only two guys who did not strike out against me was the number 9 and number 1 hitters (in fact those are the two hitters that I most often struggle with). We played a great game, with just one rough defensive inning where we gave up some runs, and another inning when they hit me around a bit (two doubles, one by the number 9 hitter), scoring a run. We hit the ball as well as we have all season, but right at the defense. We lost 4-3.

In the second game, Christophe de la Rue was pitching. Chris is a swimming teacher who rarely comes to practice; he has been at half of our games, and when he is there he is our second pitcher. He does not throw the ball very hard, but he has been surprisingly successful with his curve and his good control. On top of that, we played our best defense of the season, making only three errors (I know, that sounds like a lot). Unfortunately two of those errors came in the same inning, costing us two runs which ultimately made the difference in a game we lost 3-2. We left a lot of runners on base in this game that was won by the other team in extra innings on a single to left scoring the runner from second. In fact four of our eight chances at bat were ended with runners on base and the final out of the inning coming on a line drive caught in the air.

If you take away the unearned runs on the day, we would have won both games, the first one 3-2 and the second 2-1.

Even though we lost both games, this Sunday’s games was by far our best day of baseball yet. We had 13 players at the games, more than we have had at any game this year. Everybody was on time, in the game, supporting their teammates. After the game people were disappointed but there was no yelling or bickering like there usually is after our losses. It was great.


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